ANAHEIM — Taylor Ward said his new role as an everyday player makes a difference even when he goes to sleep at night.
“It’s a mindset going to bed, knowing you can prepare yourself better,” Ward said. “I love the confidence that (Manager) Joe (Maddon) has in me to go out there. It’s great. It’s everything.”
Ward has essentially been playing everyday in the Angels’ outfield for just over a month, having been the main benefactor of the playing time opened when the team released future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.
It is the most extended everyday playing time that Ward has had since he first got to the big leagues in August 2018 and the Angels gave him a shot at the everyday third base job. He struggled offensively and defensively in that opportunity and didn’t really get an extended shot again until now.
Although Ward, 27, had a rough start, he has steadily improved. Ward was hitting .308 with a .913 OPS in the 45 plate appearances leading into Thursday’s game. Overall he was hitting .240 with a .748 OPS.
Ward has been on such a hot streak that when Maddon needed to piece together the middle of the lineup with third baseman Anthony Rendon, catcher Max Stassi and shortstop José Iglesias all on the bench on Thursday, he put Ward in the No. 3 spot.
“I think it’s getting better and better,” Ward said. “To be on time and just feel and stay within yourself. The biggest thing for me to get better every day goes back to swinging at good pitches.”
Maddon said the mechanics of his swing, though, have shown marked improvement.
“It’s a better path to the ball,” Maddon said. “If you remember what his problems were when he got too steep and was swinging totally uphill, they were beating him with elevated fastballs. They can’t do that anymore. He is able to cover.”
Rendon (strained triceps) went through a workout on the field before Thursday’s game. Maddon said Rendon is “improving,” and there’s a chance that he will be able to return to the lineup on Friday. …
The Angels activated utility man Luis Rengifo, who had been with the team as an inactive player since Tuesday. The Angels brought Rengifo to Oakland as a precaution after Rendon was hurt. Adding Rengifo to the roster on Thursday allowed the Angels to have three healthy bench players – plus Rendon – which made it easier for them to give up the DH and let Shohei Ohtani hit for himself. …
Reliever Aaron Slegers was optioned to create a spot for Rengifo. Slegers gave up one run in one inning on Tuesday. …
Maddon said the Angels are still discussing options for the rotation next week, with off days on Monday and Thursday. If they keep all six starters in order, some pitchers could have as many as seven days between starts, so the Angels could skip someone. …
José Quintana (shoulder inflammation) threw a simulated game on Thursday afternoon. Maddon said “everything looked right,” including his fastball velocity at 92-93 mph. Quintana is expected to pitch at least one game in a rehab assignment before the Angels consider returning him to the rotation. …
Maddon continues to prefer to pair catcher Kurt Suzuki with Ohtani, even though Stassi has emerged as one of the Angels’ better hitters. “If you look at Shohei’s results, he’s done pretty well with him,” Maddon said. “I’m not worried about Stassi at all, but at this point, it’s worked out pretty well and I don’t want to run away from it. At some point, Stassi is going to have to catch him too.” …
Iglesias was not in the lineup on Thursday for a routine day off, Maddon said.
Angels (RHP Alex Cobb, 4-2, 4.98 ERA) vs. Tigers (RHP José Ureña, 2-6, 5.16), Friday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM